Depending on the issuing organisation, different symbols are used on the packaging of kosher products. Photo: Kashruth Council of Canada
Did you know? Packaging symbols: What do they actually stand for
Part 4: Kosher Foodstuffs
Other countries, other customs: compulsory information on food packaging is regulated on a country-by-country basis worldwide. In Germany, among other things, ingredients, nutritional values and manufacturers must be labelled transparently and visibly. However, it is not always possible for consumers to see in detail whether the product meets their requirements.
There are numerous labels for kosher foods alone. As with organic labels, there is no uniform official body for certification. Instead, the certifying organisation or the rabbi decides what is considered kosher. For instance, in certain foods gelatine from non-kosher animals may be used or Worcester sauce is permitted to contain anchovies. However, it is not only the rules determining what is kosher but also the fees for certification that vary. This is a key factor because food manufacturers are free to choose the testing laboratory themselves.
These four basic symbols are often found on packaging of kosher foods:
The most widespread is the “OU label” from the Orthodox Union. This denotes which modern foods still comply with the historical kosher food laws. It is considered the strictest of all kosher certificates and is recognised by around 350 international organisations. The logo of the letter “U” in the circle provides the basic symbol for further variants.
When a foodstuff is marked with the ‘OU’ symbol this means:
The product is kosher (although not necessarily kosher for the Passover festival where stricter rules apply).
The product does not contain milk, meat or any derivatives of milk or meat.
No machines were used in the preparation of the product that are also used for the production of milk or meat products.
These foods may be consumed together with dairy products or meat and reheated in kosher equipment.
The OU-D symbol is used to identify kosher foods that contain milk or milk derivatives or ones which have been in contact with machines that process milk products. Nutella jars, for example, carry this marking. Photo: Ferrero
The labelling of a foodstuff with the ‘OU’-D symbol means:
The product is a kosher dairy product (although not necessarily kosher for the Passover festival where stricter rules apply).
The product contains milk or milk derivatives. OR
The product does not contain milk or milk derivatives but has been manufactured using machines that are also used in the manufacture of dairy products.
These foods may not be cooked or eaten with foods containing meat. They must not be heated in cookware which are also used for the preparation of meat. The benchmark should be at least 30 minutes before and after eating meat.
OU-M Symbol and OU-F Symbol
These two variants essentially correspond to the markings of the OU-D symbol. However, the letters after the basic logo do not stand for milk and milk derivatives, but for meat and fish or their derivatives.
This means that:
OU-M certified products are kosher foods from meat or meat derivatives or ones that have been produced with corresponding
OU-F certified products are kosher food products made of fish or fish derivatives or ones that have been produced with corresponding
Here, too, stricter requirements apply during the Passover festival.
Similarly, these foods may only be cooked or eaten with certain other foods: in the case of meat products, milk products are not permitted half an hour before and half an hour after their consumption, nor may they be warmed up in such cookware: the same applies to fish.
The symbol K indicates food packaging of products that are pareve and suitable as kosher food for Passover. Photo: OK Kosher Certification
Further requirements are placed on pareve products and products suitable for Passover. This is often displayed on packaging with the basic symbol “OK”. In this case, the food is kosher at all times of the year.
Pareve are foodstuffs that do not belong to any of those categories of meat or milk products which must be stored, cooked and eaten strictly separately.